Review: Canon EF-M 11-22mm F/4-5.6 IS STM Lens
The Canon EF-M 11-22mm F/4-5.6 IS STM lens is the third lens launched by Canon for the mirrorless EOS M system. This ultra-wide angle (UWA) lens provides a zoom range approximately equivalent to an 18-35mm on a 35mm full frame (FF) camera. Its focal length and aperture is close to that provided by the Canon EF-S 10-22mm USM lens, but as well as being a lot smaller in size, the EF-M 11-22mm also offers image stabilization. However, the lack of distribution in the USA has raised many questions about Canon’s strategy for the EOS M system. So let’s take a look at what American photographers are missing!
The raison d’
But it is also useful in interiors where the space for the photographer to simply move back to get more into the shot is not available, as the earlier shot inside the British Museum highlights, as does the following comparison between the same shot at 18mm with the EF-M 18-55mm and 11mm.
The EF-M 11-22mm is a 12 element, 9 group design. It features two aspherical lenses and one UD lens. The lenses also feature Super Spectra coatings. As well as providing an UWA, the lens also provides a useful specified close focusing distance of 0.15m or just under 6 inches. In use, I found I could get a focus lock even closer than that, but the result wasn’t always as sharp as it could be, so sticking to 6 inches is probably good practice. As with other EF-M lenses, the filter mount doesn’t rotate during focusing, and it is also an internal focusing design which means the lens does not change length during focusing either. However, the 55mm filter thread isn’t shared with other EF-M lenses, yet alone other Canon lenses. Visually, the EF-M 11-22mm appears quite similar to the EF-M 18-55mm, where the metal skin construction of the body together with the knurled zoom and focus rings bestow a high quality look and feel to the lens. The EF-M is a small and light (220g) package, especially for a UWA.
It also has a metal mount, though the extending lens barrel is plastic.
Canon system users may find the retracting design unusual. However similar lenses are also provided by Olympus, Nikon and Samsung, enabling the lens to have a smaller form factor when stored, fitting the ethos of smaller mirrorless camera systems. To operate the lens you must first push up the release catch and then rotate the lens to at least the 11mm mark.
Once open, the lens won’t retract unless you again push up the release catch. The extended lens length varies slightly during zooming, with the shortest length around 15mm.
If you don’t extend the lens before switching on the camera, a warning message appears.
Apart from that there are no other switches on the lens. There is no AF/MF selector, nor IS On/Off, as these are all controlled via the EOS M menu system.
As with all Canon STM lenses, the EF-M 11-22mm is a ‘focus by wire’ design. That is, there is no direct physical connection between the focus ring and the lens, but instead it drives the electronic focusing motor. No doubt this design contributes to making focusing extremely quiet and smooth. The downside however is that there are no focusing distance markings or end stops (the focus ring rotates continuously), meaning manual focus is totally dependent on what you see on the LCD. (By way of contrast, even though my Samyang 8mm lens is totally manual it is very easy to set the focus at 3mtrs and the aperture at F8 using the dials on the lens and just about everything from 0.5mtr to infinity is in focus. This is impossible to do so easily on the EF-M as you have no idea of the focus distance. Not that it is difficult to use the LCD of course.) The lens supports full-time manual focusing override when the EOS M focusing mode is set to AF+MF. However, as with other EF-M lenses this requires the shutter release to be half-pressed in order to activate the electronic motor. So it feels a little cumbersome in use. You also need to enable AF+MF via the menu system first. Like the EF-M 18-55mm, the Auto Focus (AF) is very quiet in operation which makes it very useful for video work. It is also quieter than the EF 40mm F/2.8 STM or the EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS STM I have to compare it with. Interestingly, all the EF-M STM lenses are quieter in operation than EF and EF-S STM variants in my experience. This may be because they have smaller STM motors in the EF-M lenses. As noted earlier, the EF-M 11-22mm is capable of focusing very closely, at 0.15m / 6 inches or even less in my experience. The lens is not a true parofocal lens. Focus changes slightly during zooming, but at these focal lengths it doesn’t make much difference and is hard to discern. But continuous or servo focusing keeps the shot in focus whilst zooming anyway. There is little sign of focus breathing – where the field of view changes with focus – exhibited at the wide end, but is slightly evident at 22mm. The mediocre EOS M AF speed (for an interchangeable lens system) has been well documented, and the EF-M 11-22mm has no tricks up its sleeve to improve this. AF performance is a little slower than the EF-M 18-55mm. On the positive side, there is little hunting, whilst accuracy is high. Note that the EF-M 11-22mm requires EOS M firmware V2 is installed. Any failings with regard to focusing are in the 1st generation EOS M body, not the lens. For example, there can be difficulties focusing when there is a lack of vertical contrast.
For me, a big plus point of the EF-M 11-22mm compared to alternatives such as the EF-S 10-22mm is the addition of Image Stabilization (IS) which provides a claimed 3-stop effectiveness. Though many taking landscape photos with a UWA may well be using a tripod anyway, I like using a UWA indoors for the interesting perspective they give in museums, churches and such like, and where the use of tripods is not allowed, nor flash photography. I find IS most useful in these conditions. Moreover IS really is indispensable for video IMO unless again you are using a tripod. As with the EF-M 18-55mm the IS is virtually silent in operation, again making it ideal for video.
No lens hood is supplied with the EF-M 11-22mm. Besides being a bit mean of Canon not to include one, the problem at the time of writing is that the Canon EW-60E hood is difficult to locate. However, 3rd party ones are now available from China.
I purchased a JJC LH-60E model. As you can see lens hoods like these on a UWA don’t seem to offer a great deal of shade from glare. But what I do like is they provide just that little extra bit of protection should you bump into something.
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